No one (well, almost no one) approves of wife beating — but since most marriages don’t deteriorate into physical assault, we don’t insist that all husbands be treated as potential wife-beaters the moment they say “I do.”
So how come we’re on the verge of treating every driver on the road — including tea-totaling bishops — like skid-row drunks?
The federal government is looking at the idea — now being pushed aggressively by the group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others — of fitting all new cars with a device that detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, disabling the ignition if it does. The technology is similar to the ignition interlocks sometimes mandated by a court for a convicted drunk driver — only they’d be factory-installed and you wouldn’t need to be a convicted drunk driver for your vehicle to be so equipped.
Everyone would have to have one.
One system in development uses a special light to detect the hooch by “sampling” the person’s skin; others are looking at incorporating “touch pads” on the steering wheel or shifter knob that would analyze your body chemistry that way. Saab (it’s always the Swedes, eh?) is working on a key fob device — and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade group, strongly supports the concept.
So what’s wrong with all this — if it’ll keep soused drivers (who are admittedly responsible for thousands of needless deaths every year and countless injuries) from driving? The same thing that’s wrong with suspending habeas corpus — or ditching the requirement that cops obtain a judicially-sanctioned search warrant before they can rifle through your home.
It treats us all as presumptively guilty — and does away with the quaint idea that people who haven’t done anything wrong (or given indication they may) be treated differently than people who have actually done something wrong.
Just because a person might be up to no good doesn’t mean we have the right to treat him as if he were, in fact, up to no good. And to be more precise, it’s wrong to assume that everyone is up to no good — or apt to be, if left to their own devices — unless steps are taken pre-emptively (a la the Bush Doctrine) to eliminate any risk, even a theoretical one. And even though we may be kicking loose yet another brick in the foundation of our freedoms.
And this business of fitting new cars with sobriety detectors does just that; it is no different in its own way than giving the IRS the power to randomly and without probable cause check your private records — just to make sure you’re complying with the law. It is very much in keeping with the practice of randomly stopping motorists at a “sobriety checkpoint,” of course — and could be described as a natural consequence of letting that outrage go on without much protest on our part.
All in a good cause.
We lose our liberties in a little affronts that eventually lead to the complete surrender of our right to be left alone and in peace — and to not be treated like common criminals before we’ve even committed the thought, let alone the deed.
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